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Stress Test Comparison : PROSOK vs DryMax

Posted by Mark Webb on

Introduction

Moisture is one of the enemies of feet and a common factor in blister formation and a required one in maceration. Its also easy to come by and so was the basis for a sock stress test. The general idea was to keep my feet wet, and cover lots of distance (specifically while ‘shadowing’ a GORUCK Heavy event over 24+hrs)

In a previous post I did a quick comparison between the brand new sock company PROSOK that is US and veteran owned and the much more established DryMax (a product I’ve used for sometime now).

I’ve been testing PROSOK for day to day wear (super comfortable) and for GORUCK events, and have many friends that have used them for road running as well as OCR and trail races. Most people I know have claimed them to be the best sock they have ever used for both blister prevention and comfort.

I must say my initial tests for day to day wear and some short runs have proved very positive.

So on to the test itself. Before reading this, bear in mind that my specific findings and conclusions are based very specifically on rucking type events (such as a GORUCK Challenge, or Death Race) but will add my (untested) thoughts on application in other scenarios based on this specific test.

Specific Products Tested

PROSOK

socks_benefits PROSOK is a relative newcomer to the world of technical socks. They are made using a bamboo micro-weave making them both environmentally friendly and breathable.

The main intended advantages over other products include

  • Stretch to fit. The stretchiness of these socks really does make them fit much better than any other athletic sock I have worn, and a perfect fit always helps prevent certain foot problems.
  • Anti-microbial. Helps prevent a bunch of issues too, least of which is smelly feet.
  • Extremely wicking. They hold onto moisture which also pulls it away from the skin very quickly.

As a newcomer they only have one style of sock on the market at this time in a couple of different sizes. I tested the 16cm black/green sock on my left foot. Its just long enough to work with 8” military boots.

DryMax

packaging_lite_trail_runningDryMax are a more mature company and as such have many styles of socks that are custom designed with features for specific applications, such as road or trail running, hiking, and even tennis or golf. They are manufactured in the USA.

The sock I used was the Lite Trail Hiking sock, in crew length – slightly longer than the PROSOK but still a good fit for military 8” boots.

Their main designed advantages are

  • Designed specifically for trail running to prevent debris entering the sock.
  • Dual layer weave (knitted together) contains an inner layer that repels water and an outer layer that attracts it. This quickly pulls moisture away from the skin which will then evaporate under heat or friction.
  • Knitted to fit. Certain features are designed to provide a better fit for overall and long term comfort.

I have been using these socks for sometime now and have sworn by them for most events I do.

Test Parameters

The original intent was to perform the following test for the duration of a GORUCK Heavy event this last weekend but sadly an injury caused me to withdraw. Instead I decided to shadow the event to cover the same mileage with walking and running only, while carrying around 20-25lbs (camera equipment etc).

The specific parameters were

  • Distance
    • 40+ miles on a mix of surfaces, mostly road and concrete and some trail with a mixture of running, walking and fast walking.
  • Socks
    • One PROSOK product was to be placed on my left foot and one DryMax product on my right foot. No sock changes or swapping were to be allowed.
    • Both socks were new but pre-washed (recommended for the PROSOK product)
  • Footwear
  • Conditions
    • No additional products were used, meaning no tape, foot powder or lubrication products are to be allowed
    • Feet were to start out very damp, and new water applied at regular intervals
    • Socks to remain unchanged until significant maceration or blistering occurs and even then I’d only allow the sock on that foot to be changed after lancing the blister if necessary. Again no foot powder or other products will be allowed.
    • Socks would not be taken off to dry out or wring out – only to view and photograph progress
    • Outdoor Temperature varied from 30F to 55F

Early Impressions (first 4 hours)

Between pulling the socks and boots onto the feet and lacing the boots, I added about 1oz of water to each foot. The intent here is to accelerate the stress test. Once of the enemies of foot care is moisture.

At any opportunity to walk through a stream, brook or puddle I took it. The C4T boot though needs to be submersed by a few inches to really let in water, and they also vent water quickly while walking.

The following observations were noted

  1. SIZING : PROSOK run small but stretch to fit, which with the sock shape ensured a perfect fit on the base of the foot. DryMax have zero stretch, and despite their “True Fit” sizing its not as easy to get an exact fit. The important thing here with the DryMax then was to ensure that the heel cup was placed correctly before inserting into the boot.
    Note that PROSOK’s current large size is 16cm, which only just pulls over the top of the 8” boot.
  2. COMFORT : Right off the bat I noticed some obvious differences. The softness and fit of the PROSOK made them feel more cushioned. The softer material also made the sock less noticable under movement.
    The DryMax felt dry within minutes of moving, though, where the PROSOK felt damp for a considerable time. This was expected though.
    A direct comparison did make me away of the fact that the material and weave of the DryMax is a little harsher and on that foot I did notice some mild sensations in a couple of places.
  3. FOOT ISSUES : None on either feet
  4. RATING @ 4hrs
    1. PROSOK : 10/10
    2. DryMax : 9/10

First 12 hours

Between 4 and 12 hours I continued to put on miles, which became noticeable. The temperature was beginning to warm up as daylight hit and the day progressed. Again I took every opportunity to stand in puddles or streams, or walk through them to rewet the feet from time to time. Once moving after soaking the feet, the venting action of the C4T boots was excellent which certainly helped prolong the onset of problems.

No issues occurred either in this time but again I noticed that the PROSOK foot consistently felt ‘softer’ and slightly more cushioned than the DryMax foot, but also often felt significantly damper.

  1. FOOT ISSUES : Nothing major. Some slight heat was starting to be felt on the heals of both my feet (note that I have protruding heel bones which often cause this issue) with the DryMax feeling slightly worse. A very minor hot spot was also felt in a small section on the small of my foot. PROSOK seemed slightly more comfortable. With all these issues, though, the differences were minor
  2. RATING @ 12 hrs
    1. PROSOK : 10/10
    2. DryMax : 9/10

At the 12 hour mark I did a foot check, photos below. As you can see for having 20-25 miles on mostly hard surfaces, with regularly soaked feet, both feet are relatively unscathed.

PROSOK (left foot) @ 12 hrs DryMax (right foot) @ 12 hrs

On replacing the boots I opened the tongue of the boots and poured in about 2oz of water into each before lacing up and getting ready to move on.

First 18 hours

The 12-18 hour period is when I usually expect issues to start creeping in for me under less than ideal circumstances. Keeping my feet moist was definitely less than ideal. At around the 15 hour mark I was starting to notice hot spots and pain in two spots on the foot wearing PROSOK – the pinky toe and the outside edge on the bottom of my heal. It wasn’t painful but definitely hot spots that I knew were starting to turn.

The distance was also starting to take its toll on my legs too. Around 30+ miles in was causing some stiffness to start appearing in my calves and achilles tendon which was undoubtedly changing my gait in a subtle manner.

At the 18 hour mark (roughly) the class I was following took shelter in a gym for a quick foot check giving me the opportunity to check and photograph mine

  1. FOOT ISSUES : By hour 18, the foot wearing the PROSOK had two fairly painful, but small, blisters. The skin on the base of the foot was also starting to soften, but was still in good shape. At this point I decided to replace the wet PROSOK with a clean dry one.
    The foot wearing DryMax was still in decent shape. Some softness on my heel and base of my foot was present, but again nothing critical.
  2. RATING @ 18 hrs
    1. PROSOK : 6/10
    2. DryMax : 9/10

PROSOK @ 18hrs PROSOK @ 18hrs

DryMax @ 18hrs DryMax @ 18hrs

At the foot check I decided to drain the two small blisters using a sterile lancing needle, and apply a new PROSOK. I kept the original DryMax on the other foot.

Full 24+ hours

The last 6 hours involved a slower pace, which puts less stress in the feet in terms of friction and shearing from movement. The draining of my blisters and application of a new PROSOK helped tremendously. The PROSOK in fact very quickly dried out the base of that foot almost reversing any tendency towards maceration.

  1. FOOT ISSUES : At hour 26 the issues were minor. There was still some minor tenderness from the blister sights on the PROSOK foot, but also a minor pain on the heel of the DryMax foot as well.
    Overall though both feet were in much better shape than expected.
  2. RATING @ 26 hrs
    1. PROSOK : 8/10
    2. DryMax : 9/10

Conclusions

Both socks performed better than expected given the conditions and are both worth trying – I consider these products both as head and shoulders above their competition. That said, in this one test the DryMax definitely had the edge, going for 24 hrs and 40+ miles without needing to be changed or wrung out. This was also a single test, and different conditions might provide different results.

The application of a new PROSOK was key to reversing the effects of the blisters and the softening of my feet while wet. The PROSOK also generally felt a little bit more comfortable most of the time, with slightly less noticeable hot spots and a little more cushion. The fit was also a bit better. I would, though, recommend spare pairs for wet and or long distance usage. Given that this is their first product, I am very impressed and can only expect future generations of product from them to get better as they fine tune their design.

The DryMax socks remain my favorite sock, despite the fact that the fit isn’t as easy to get right and the fact that they aren’t quite as comfortable. The fact that seconds after soaking my foot in a pond and then walking in a vented boot has them feeling bone dry is a huge deal and gives me one less thing to feel worried about during a GORUCK event, Death Race, or similar style event. I also like that I can choose a product tailored to the specific application although sometimes the choice can be confusing or overwhelming too.

I also have no doubt that BOTH socks would have been rated Excellent had I also used Trail Toes cream on my feet beforehand and reapplied every 6-8 hours. A side note – I did use Trail Toes in my butt crack and inner thigh as its a WAY better anti-chafe product than Body Glide and also smells a lot better too.

The first two pictures below show the blistering from PROSOK use. The second show some heel abrasion from DryMax use but no blistering.

PROSOK w/ pinky toe blister after 26 hrs PROSOK w/ heel blister after 26 hrs

DryMax after event DryMax after event

A quick note regarding the Super Feet Green inserts. This are usually my first choice, but they were a little too firm for long distances and in the future I might switch to their software version the Super Feet Orange.

Recommendation

PROSOK and DryMax are both worth a look. Check them out and add a comment with your thoughts.  Both of these have a place in my activity “toolkit”.

If I weren’t expecting to go for more than 10 hrs or have constantly wet feet (so a multi-day hike) then PROSOK would be my product of choice. Similarly for a short mud-run (I consider short anything up to 6-8 hrs) the comfort and fit of this product gives them the edge.

For longer applications where I might not get opportunities to change out socks (GORUCK Heavy or Selection, for example) I would combine Trail Toes foot cream with the DryMax Hiking socks.